Nerval's Lobster writes: a “broad alliance” of 63 technology companies and civil liberties organizations plan on demanding more transparency about U.S. government surveillance programs, according to a new report in AllThingsD. Those companies and organizations will reportedly ask the government to allow them to report more accurate information about user-data requests. At the moment, federal agencies forbid Google, Microsoft, and other tech vendors from reporting more than a broad numerical range; for example, Google might announce as part of its Transparency Report that it received between 0-999 National Security Letters (issued by agencies as part of national security investigations) in 2009. “We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government’s national security–related authorities,” reads a portion of a letter that will be reportedly published July 19 and signed by all those tech companies. “This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use.” This is all continuing fallout from Edward Snowden's leaks of top-secret documents alleging that the NSA maintains a program called PRISM that allegedly siphons personal information from the databases of the world’s largest tech companies. Ever since, those companies (which have all denied participation in PRISM) have been anxious to show the world that they only give the government as little user data as possible. This new push for more “transparency” plays to that strategy, and the stakes couldn’t be higher—if consumers and businesses lose faith in their IT providers' ability to preserve privacy, the latter's very existence could be at risk.
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